When I was 11 or so, a friend asked, "What's wrong with your Mom's hand?"
"Nothing, " I said. Still, this crazy girl kept insisting something was wrong with Mom's hand. I guessed that maybe it was dirty? No. Eventually she said, frustrated, "It isn't the same as the other one."
"Oh, that!" I exclaimed, "Oh, that's just from when she had polio." And then we tried to cook instant pudding in my Easy-Bake Oven.
I suppose other people notice Mom's hand at some point. It is smaller than the other. The fingers are delicate, and her pinky is perpetually raised. I suppose it's like a plant that isn't getting enough nutrition from the roots, so it grows a little spindly and in unusual directions. I never really notice. I still don't notice; Mom frequently has to remind Gary and I that building shelves in the laundry room would be a lovely idea EXCEPT SHE CANNOT RAISE HER ARMS ABOVE HER WAIST IF YOU'VE FORGOTTEN, ELLEN. So, you know.
I think that's typical of kids with disabled parents. A similar scene is documented in a fine book called Waist-High in the World (though I of course prefer the alternate title the author considered, Crotch-High in the World). The author is in a wheelchair from progressive MS, and reports people generally don't look at her. I can't give it a purely unbiased recommendation, because the copy I read had Mom's wry annotations.
I ate that book up. It isn't all about being in a wheelchair, though it mentions how those in wheelchairs are invisible. Oh, that reminds me, check out what happened today. We have a co-worker who uses a wheelchair: Mark. Today when she saw Mark in passing, Caroline gave him a cheery hello, which Mark didn't answer. "Mark," on closer inspection, was actually an office chair with a box perched on top of it. Caroline foolishly told me about it. HAHAHHAHAHahahha. Heartless Cow.
In fact I brought Waist-High In the World out today to see her take on incontinence, since I received my MS baptism today. It seems a lifetime of Kegel exercises cannot hold their own against a bladder infection backed up up by a quart of water and a grande cappucino. Gary, of course thinks this is hysterical, and GROSS, and a good amount of I AM NOT CLEANING THAT UP! and much conspiratorial discussion with the dog about the INJUSTICE and how I should be put in the crate. Plus, when I turned my back to go to the bathroom for the fiftieth time tonight he brought up a "Hot Sexy Girl Pee" web site on my laptop.
And yeah, it's gross, but it isn't as funny as Caroline saying "Hi" to the box sitting in the office chair. I know that's what you're still laughing at.